Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Discover Why Plague Is So Lethal

Date:
May 5, 2008
Source:
Society for General Microbiology
Summary:
Bacteria that cause the bubonic plague may be more virulent than their close relatives because of a single genetic mutation, according to research published in the May issue of the journal Microbiology.

Yersinia pestis, direct fluorescent antibody stain (DFA), at 200x magnification.
Credit: CDC / Courtesy of Larry Stauffer, Oregon State Public Health Laboratory

Bacteria that cause the bubonic plague may be more virulent than their close relatives because of a single genetic mutation, according to research published in the May issue of the journal Microbiology.

Related Articles


"The plague bacterium Yersinia pestis needs calcium in order to grow at body temperature. When there is no calcium available, it produces a large amount of an amino acid called aspartic acid," said Professor Brubaker from the University of Chicago, USA. "We found that this is because Y. pestis is missing an important enzyme."

Bubonic plague has killed over 200 million people during the course of history and is thus the most devastating acute infectious disease known to man. Despite this, we are still uncertain about the molecular basis of its extraordinary virulence.

"Y. pestis evolved from its ancestor Y. pseudotuberculosis within the last 20,000 years, suggesting its high lethality reflects only a few genetic changes. We discovered that a single mutation in the genome of Y. pestis means the enzyme aspartase is not produced," said Professor Brubaker.

Aspartase is present in almost all bacteria but it is curiously absent in many pathogenic types. These include mycobacteria that are pathogenic to man, Francisella tularensis and rickettsiae (both of which cause diseases transmitted to humans via insects). "This suggests that the absence of aspartase may contribute to serious disease," said Professor Brubaker.

Aspartase digests aspartic acid. Because Y. pestis doesn't have the enzyme, it produces much more aspartic acid than is required by the person infected. This may cause an imbalance to the host amino acid pools. "If this is the case then we might be able to reduce the death rates of these diseases by developing a treatment that removes some of the extra aspartic acid," said Professor Brubaker.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for General Microbiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society for General Microbiology. "Scientists Discover Why Plague Is So Lethal." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080504194238.htm>.
Society for General Microbiology. (2008, May 5). Scientists Discover Why Plague Is So Lethal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080504194238.htm
Society for General Microbiology. "Scientists Discover Why Plague Is So Lethal." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080504194238.htm (accessed November 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) The Houston Zoo released video of a male baby okapi. Okapis, also known as the "forest giraffe", are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Video is mute from source. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mysterious Glow Worms Found in the Amazon

Mysterious Glow Worms Found in the Amazon

Buzz60 (Nov. 20, 2014) Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer teamed up with entomologist Aaron Pomerantz and others to investigate a predatory glow worm found in the Amazon. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins